Coronavirus

Good to Go: Despite the Coronavirus, a Shawarma Shop Counts Its Blessings

The interior at Shawarma Press in Irving.
The interior at Shawarma Press in Irving. Kathy Tran
Good to Go is a column where our food writers explore Dallas' restaurant scene through takeout orders, delivery boxes and reheated leftovers.

Business is slow at Shawarma Press, the excellent fast-casual Jordanian restaurant in Irving, but things could have been much worse. For one, the kitchen’s signature meal — a shawarma wrap using thin flatbread — makes a perfect takeout food.

For another thing, the coronavirus erupted in Dallas just as Shawarma Press was poised to expand. Fortunately, that expansion hadn’t quite happened yet.

In February, the restaurant’s owners were preparing to sign a lease for a second location in downtown Dallas, in an office building where most of the other businesses closed each day at 5 p.m. There was a small delay in the process as the contract was drawn up, and then, before they could sign it, the city locked down.

Co-owner Sawsan Abublan won’t say so, but the failure of that deal could be a blessing in disguise, as many downtown offices remain closed and employees work from home. She is, however, very happy to talk about another new deal, a successful one this time, which could help transform Shawarma Press in another way.

“Just last week we finally launched our all-natural chicken and our organic chickpeas, which made something amazing even better,” Abublan says. “We had internally switched already, but we had not launched the marketing campaign.”

In another stroke of good fortune, Shawarma Press secured its supply chain for the new, higher-quality chicken and chickpeas before coronavirus struck. There’s been no interruption so far, and the supplier reassured Abublan this weekend that deliveries will continue.

click to enlarge
The Tex-Mex shawarma in all its glory.
Kathy Tran
The luckiest news of all, of course, is that the restaurant’s wraps are as excellent as ever and a completely handheld on-the-go meal. Portions are generous, too. Try resisting the $12 combo meal that includes your choice of wrap, two side dishes and a cup of sauce. When we grabbed one this weekend, it was easily enough to feed two people.

Shawarma Press’s fries travel well, too, because they have such texture — they’re the kind of fries with a coating so crisp that the color turns a shade or two darker. Sides like tabbouleh and a Mediterranean salad, not to mention the newly organic hummus, can help make those fries feel like part of a balanced meal.

This is one of only a handful of Dallas-area shawarma restaurants where the meat is hand-sliced and stacked laboriously onto a towering vertical rotisserie. Many businesses buy prefabricated frozen meat cones, especially for gyros. Shawarma Press doesn’t cut that corner, which is part of why its sandwich meat is so well-seasoned and so crispy-edged.

Shawarma Press’s dining room is open, but only a few tables are available, and this weekend during our visit nobody was seated at them.

“Sales are down dramatically, but because of the fact that (our foods) are portable, we’re still open,” Abublan says. “If I did not have the wraps and bowls that were easily to go, I would have been in a different situation. I’m lucky in that aspect.”

When the virus subsides, Shawarma Press will be ready to tackle an initiative that the crisis has put on hold: franchising. High-quality product and a simple menu could make for an ideal franchising setup. After the service industry returns to normal business, this little shop has a chance to expand rapidly.

“We just need to hope for the best,” Abublan says. “I hope we wake up from this nightmare soon.”

Shawarma Press, 411 E. Royal Lane, Suite110, Irving.
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Brian Reinhart has been the Dallas Observer's food critic since spring 2016. In addition, he writes baseball analysis for the Hardball Times and covers classical music for the Observer and MusicWeb International.
Contact: Brian Reinhart

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